Since last year, our indian grocer is bringing to us green mango exports straight from the heart of India. Whats different about them you would ask? They are much smaller in size, fibrous & sour and bring back picture perfect memories of those pickles & sharbatin the kitchen that I have grown up on. I am making chutney with them, as well as adding them to lentils.
However, such special things do always come with a big price tag (I paid $12 for 5 small pieces), so after spending that fortune last week, I made sure to come up with something new. After much thinking, this granita was made to beat the extreme summers that have hit our part of the world.
On a different note, this summer, I have been lucky with homegrown herbs and a little vegetable patch after trying hard for years. Each year my pots fell victim to weeds and heat but this time, so far all looks great. Even a small twig of it feels so rewarding. I used homegrown mint to infuse the refreshing notes in this recipe. It is the tang of the green mangoes enhanced with sweet lemon & tart lime juice and grassy heat of the green chili which makes it special, along with a much-needed refreshing notes from fresh, homegrown mint to a lightly sweet, healthy dessert for summer months. Granita (in Italian also granita siciliana) is a semi-frozen dessert made from sugar, water and various flavorings. Originally from Sicily, it has a coarser texture. It is a very simple thing to make except that you need to stare open at a freezer scraping the bowl every other hour or so.
So if you do not desire to put in the baby sitting it needs, turn the same recipe to a sorbet. It tastes as good.
1.5 tablespoon fresh lime juice (adjust quantity depending on how tart the mangoes are)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (adjust quantity depending on how tart the mangoes are)
1.5 teaspoon black salt (kala namak, reduce amount if the mangoes are really tart)
1/4 teaspoon regular salt ( or to taste)
Wash the mangoes. Bring the water to a rolling boil in a pot and add the whole mangoes. Let boil on high heat for 5-8 minutes or until the skin turns pale and they are slightly soft to touch(take care that the mango skins do not break open). Take the mangoes out of boiling water and leave to cool off. Once cooled, peel off (the skin will separate in a squeeze) and discard the skins.
While the magpies are boiling, in another small pot, combine sugar and water and place over medium heat,cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the stove, immediately add the mint stems and leaves and leave aside to steep for about 3-5 minutes (do not leave for too long else the syrup will turn bitter). Strain the syrup through a sieve and let cool down.
Transfer the mango flesh and green chili( if using) to a blender and pulse to smooth. Take out in a large bowl and add the mint simple syrup, lime & lemon juice, black salt and salt to taste to it. Mix to combine. Strain through a sieve to a smooth mixture.
Pour mixture into a 11 inch by 7 inch glass pan. Cover and let freeze for 1 hour and 30 minutes uncovered. Scrape the icy edges with a fork. Freeze again. Scrape every 45 minutes until completely frozen (about 6-8 hours). Remove from freezer every hour or so; scrape with a fork until fluffy. Once semi solid ice crystals are formed, scrape till fluffy.Cover tightly and freeze. Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep frozen.
Scrape granita into bowls and serve garnished with lime wedges and mint.Dust with a pinch of chaat masala or black salt just before serving(optional).
If you asked me about what eating out during childhood years meant, I would have nothing vivid to recollect about fine dining and celebratory dinners. Except for may be the street foods which we gorged on every other evening at Arun Chaat Bhandar, a tiny one room eatery which had been around ever since I have known,the restaurant trips were rare. More so because my grandmother and mother had this undying wish to recreate all kinds of food in their kitchen and less because eating out was not as big part of the indian culture during the 1980s as it is now-a-days. You can gauge that from the fact that whenever I tell my mother about anything non indian food that my daughter likes her play school, she asks me to look up the recipe on internet and cook it for her. ‘Ghar par hi bana do, accha rahega“, cook at home, it will be far better in taste, she tells me. Well, we will keep it for another day as to how I go about her suggestions (wink!) but coming back to my chidlhood days, other than the chaat corner, the other place that me and my siblings looked forward to was indo chinese food at ‘Sabus‘, a neon red-painted food van permanently situated at the front of the back wall of an old housing complex, itched with graffiti of an indian comic character, Sabu, a monstrous alien from planet Jupiter, huge & strong, bald and muscular,always wearing gumboots. It would be slightly untrue to state that we loved eating at that van just because of the noodles, there was more fun in the form of free stickers, liquid filled transparent chopsticks and cheap stamps if you placed a large order. Unlike the food trucks in the States, that red van without tyres was a lot dilapidated, with a much tamed down kitchen as far as cooking facilities & techniques available, but the food from there made sure that the street infront always smelled of soy & spices. You know that burnt, fermented savory ‘stink’?, when the soy bubbles & splutters when as soon as it hits the hot as volcano wok, that! As I write this, I can still remember the taste of food there from some 20 years ago, of the greasy chowmein and the scarlet colored chilli chicken. “It’s all in the wok”, the little Nepalese guy with golden hair and wrinkly forehead replied whenever questioned about his recipes or where he got his condiments.
My mom has been making this hot and sour chicken for so many years, the only difference being that she serves it with a runny sauce than what we ate at Sabus. I follow her recipe mostly except that I do not deep fry the chicken, rather lightly sear it before proceeding to make the sauce.This recipe is more of for an appetizer or starter course than the mains, however the husband insists on combining it some steamed jasmine rice each time. Any which way, the way that garlic & hot chili laced sauce with hints of tomato, soy and fresh cracked black pepper combines with vinegar soaked succulent morsels of chicken is just too delicious. Try it!
A tangy fusion dish of vinegar soaked chicken stirred with garlic – chili paste, soy and spices.
2 tablespoon chilli tomato sauce (I use Maggi Hot & sweet, substitute with Sriracha & 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or use 1.5 – 2 tablespoons Sambal oelek )
1.5 tsp honey (or brown sugar, adjust to taste)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspoon pure, untoasted sesame oil (optional but recommended)
1 teaspoon corn starch
1/2 cup chicken/vegetable stock or water
3-4 tbsp oil (I used sunflower, use any neutral oil)
5 scallion stalks, white & green cut separately
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, finely chopped
3/4 tsp red pepper flakes (adjust to tolerance)
Salt to taste
1.5 – 2 tbsp white vinegar (adjust to taste, or use a few dashes of balsamic vinegar)
For Garnish – chopped scallions(green parts)
Clean the chicken, pat it dry. Cut the cleaned chicken into bite size pieces. Rub it with garlic, chili, soy sauce, salt & pepper, vinegar and let sit for about 25-30 minutes.
While the chicken is marinating, using your mortar and pestle or mini processor, crush the garlic and Fresno chillies to tiny bits.You could use some water if required for blending.
In a small bowl, mix up the soy sauce, chili tomato sauce, honey and sesame oil(if using). In another bowl, mix the cornstarch with the stock and set aside.
In a wide skillet (I used my 12″), heat up 2-3 tbsp of oil on high. Pick up the marinated chicken pieces, shake to release vinegar and layer on the skillet and let sear on both sides, flipping in between. Make sure that the chicken pieces cook all the way through. This may take about 7-8 minutes or more depending on the size of pieces.
Once done, transfer the chicken pieces to a plate and reserve the drippings in the skillet itself.
Add the 3 tbsp oil into the same skillet and heat it up on medium. Add the crushed garlic chili paste and fry up these for 20-30 second or so till you smell the aroma. Be careful that the garlic does not burn (else it will be bitter). Next add the chopped onions and scallions (white parts) and cook on medium high for 3-4 minutes or till light brown in color. Add the tomatoes next and let cook till they begin to soften. Next, add the ginger along with the soy sauce mix made earlier, let cook for 3-4 minutes till everything starts looking glossy or till you see bubbles on the sides. Next, add the cornstarch mix to the skillet. Reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer for another 2-3 minutes till the sauce thickens slightly.
Next, taste & adjust the salt in the sauce. Sprinkle the red chili flakes & vinegar to the skillet and stir everything well. Add the chicken & toss so that the pieces are evenly coated.
Garnish with chopped green scallions & serve immediately.
I adore seafood, as you might already be noticing on the blog and on my Instagram feed. Quite a few seafood dishes popping every other day! I seem to have inherited this love from both my parents. Growing up, unlike may north indian homes, fish and prawns formed an integral part of our meals.Right from purchasing the freshest catch to patiently cooking the bought, mom and dad made sure that through growing years, our taste buds acquired an afffinty for food from the sea . Even though fresh water fish is still more popular with my family members and going by the rules, it is not food from the “sea” but you know what I mean.
Continuing my desire to develop new ways of consuming fish,I am always on a look out for ideas.Talking about ideas, I have been eating this quick salmon bowl for lunch quite a lot these days. It is quick, healthy and does not leave you with that “heavy” feeling kind of meal. I could go for a jog after this, no kidding!
I have talked about Indo chinese flavors at length in so many of my previous post. Here,here and here. These two strong asian cuisines marry again and again inside my wok, always leaving me amazed at the robust flavor of the resulting dishes. We simply adore the flavors in our home, though strict foodies(without being at fault) will dismiss it away categorizing it as unauthentic.
When you are a foodie, you draw inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. When I visited my local asian store a couple of weeks back, I was drawn towards the teriyaki salmon bowls on display at their asian section. Tad overpriced at first look but then I notched forward and spotted big chunks of orange salmon glazed in a beautiful dark amber colored sauce, spliced with chilies and colorful , glossy vegetables on the side.The meal was indeed mouth watering and made complete sense. Immediately, the idea of playing with indo chinese crossed my mind. Grabbing my grocery bags in both hands, I yearned to get into my kitchen and stir up something. This recipe came up on a whim.I did not even intend to post it but the colors looked so gorgeous once I plated that I took out the camera. It could be a great dinner option too. Just double the recipe for two people and if you have the time and inclination, stir up some vegetable fried rice. The aromatic indian spices, dashes of salty soy sauce & vinegar complement the rich fatty salmon in an excellent way along with the quick sweet tangy pickled vegetables which add that much-needed freshness in contrast to strong savory seasonings.
An easy recipe of salmon chunks stir fried with asian flavors. Use it as an outline and play around with the sauces/condiments used to suit your taste.
For the Salmon
1 no 6oz to 8 oz salmon fillet
1.5 teaspoon dark soy
1 fat garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoon white vinegar (adjust to taste)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil (this is a strong-tasting oil, substitute with untoasted sesame oil or any neutral oil)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 fat garlic, finely chopped
1 small Thai green chili, minced (adjust to taste)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon coriander powder
Red chilli flakes to taste
1.5 tablespoon Maggi chilli tomato sauce (or use 1 tablespoon tomato ketchup mixed with cayenne)
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon honey (or to taste)
salt to taste
Add any kind of vegetables, scallions, bok choy etc to this recipe while cooking.
You could add dashes of Sriracha or hot sauce for additional heat.
For the Pickled Vegetables
3 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Thai green chilli, minced
salt to taste
2-3 radish, julienned
1 small persian cucumber, julienned
1/3 cup leftover steamed jasmine or plain rice (optional)
Using a sharp knife, cut the salmon fillet in small cubes. In a bowl, transfer the cubes and mix the soy, minced garlic, vinegar and sesame oil with it. Let sit for 10 minutes.
While the salmon is marinating, proceed to make the pickled vegetables. In another bowl, mix up the vinegar, sugar, salt and minced green chili. Mix. Add the julienned vegetables and refrigerate.
In a pan or wok, heat up the canola oil to smoky. Immediately add the chopped shallot, garlic and ginger. Saute for 1-2 minutes till you smell a nice aroma. Add the coriander powder. Saute for 1 minutes. Then add the marinated salmon text along with . Stir fry the salmon on high for 3-4 minutes. They cook up fast so keep a close eye. Towards the last minute of cooking add the chill-tomato sauce,red chill flakes,garam masala, honey and adjust the salt. Also, check the tang from vinegar at the end of cooking. You can some more if you like. Sprinkle fresh cilantro.
Serve immediately alongside some leftover rice and pickled vegetables from the refrigerator.
Many times, it really takes a beating to make favorite foods from childhood healthier. I don’t know. I always feel that childhood could absorb all that gluttony of sweets, fat and carbohydrates. Not that now my metabolism won’t permit, but my mind seriously watches goes into my system. When I was changing this recipe of fried chivda(flattened rice), a favorite snack from my years of growing up and an immensely popular street food in the northern parts of india,usually served in soiled newspaper cones, I wanted the flattened rice to make the same crackling cripsy sound between my teeth as it should but did not want to sink it down in a pool of hot oil. I wanted that rich salty grease from it to drown my tastebuds and coat the roof of my palette but did not want to witness the flakes swimming and popping inside oil. Not really.
You know sometimes, you might feel that the close-to- perfect meals that you see on this blog are easy and I work wonders like michelin chefs in my home kitchen,but truth be told, on few days, there are bundles of failures and wastage (eeeks) associated with experimenting while cooking .It happens al the time with me, I dream of something and the reality of the finished dish is not so awesome. Anyhow,while I turned to my try-new-things idea, out came the cookie sheet and on the lines of making granola, I set out. I tossed the flattened rice in tablespoons of oil and actually used all the patience I could muster at that ungodly hour of the night to lay it in a single layer. I might have gone a bit too far by actually trying to separate each and every rice flake from the other with help from chopsticks under the dim night kitchen lights. Hmm. Into a low oven for under half an hour and out came the baking sheet. My fears came to life when the rice did not look or smell up to the mark, not like I dreamt it to be. I would not categorize it as inedible but the long story short, the granola procedure failed me.The count of beating went another notch up. Some other time,I told myself and retired to bed.
Then another day, in the bright of the noon, I took out the trusted cast iron skillet, heated oil to smoky and sizzled rice flakes in it and then with a lot more patience on my side, watchfully, slow roasted the chivda, stirring it continually with fork to a crispy goodness, sniffing it, observing how the toasted brown to a bowlful, one which crinkled in the mouth and coated the tastebuds with salty fat. I got it.
When we were kids, 5 pm foods were the best.No jokes. From piping hot samosas and jalebi from the neighbourhood halwai (sweets vendor) or instant noodles from neon yellow pouches, curry puffs and puddings, fruit shakes to potato balls, it was real fun everyday to see mom, badi mummy(my grandma) and aunts cook up new things for us.This chivda (flattened rice) is one from those days. During the spring and early summer season, fresh peas were tossed in cumin and green chillies and served along side. The rustic, mish mash snack plate of sorts is a burst of textures – sweet, salty, smoky and hot. The chaat masalaand bits of ginger combine with the sweetness of those peas to make up a pleasing bite. I could never get the same taste with frozen peas, you need to make this before the fresh pea season lasts. Whats more? Its gluten free, vegan and tad healthy. Go make some. Now.
Both the components of this recipe can be done ahead. Roast the chivda (flattened rice) and store it in air tight jar for up to a week. I usually make the peas 3-4 hours ahead (they have better flavor if they sit for a while) and warm up later but you can totally make them when ready to serve.
Ingredients (Serves 4-5)
For the Roasted Chivda (Flattened Rice)
4 tablespoons of oil
2.5 cups thick poha (flattened rice, available in any indian/pakistani stores)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Optional – add any nuts or seeds of choice, peanuts, cashews, raisins, sunflower seeds etc
In a wide, cast iron skillet (I use my 10″) , heat up the oil to the point that it about to smoky. Put off the stove. Take a fork in one hand and start adding the flattened rice with the other, continuously stirring else it will burn. Add all of the rice, and stir so that all the flakes are coated in oil. Add the salt and stir to combine. Return the skillet to stove and on low heat, let the rice toast up. Keep on stirring it a lot of times, else it will burn and you will see that the flakes start to change color. You will smell a nutty aroma too. It takes about 8-10 minutes on low heat for the rice to completely roast and turn pale brown. This time will depend on the variety and thickness of flattened rice you are using. Adjust.
Once the flattened rice has roasted, let it cool down completely. Transfer to an air tight jar. Use a clean, dry spoon to serve it. Store up to a week.
Make Spiced Peas
In a wide pan, heat up the oil on medium heat. Once heated, temper the oil with cumin seeds and wait for them to crackle.Add the chopped onions to the pan and let the onions cook till transculent.Don’t brown them.Next, add the chopped ginger & green chili to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add the blanched peas next along with garam masala and salt to taste. Stir to combine and let cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes.
Add the chaat masala and chopped cilantro next and stir fry on high heat for 3-4 minutes, continuously stirring.Take care that the peas do not turn mushy.
Put off the heat, add fresh lemon juice.
To serve, plate up the roasted chivda and spicy peas. Add 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar on top along with a sprinkle of red chili flakes. Enjoy with a cup of chai.
Growing up, we ate ridiculous amounts of fish. Friday was precisely the day to turn to our local fish monger, who proudly called a dimly lit, dilapidated tiny room as his shop but boasted of best quality fish in the neighborhood. The place smelled of salt and sweat and was choked with buyers most part of the day. There was the owner and two helpers who sat at the back corner of the room, cleaning and cutting fish at a constant pace, hardly lifting their heads to see what was going on around them. They did not talk to each other or exchange glances, those expressionless faces often left me wondering as to what their motivation could be to come to this job everyday. Anyhow, the owner solely dealt with each customer and maintained level-headed heated & humorous bargains. The regulars, obviously had a better chance compared to everyone else to snatch an unbeatable discount.
On each visit, I saw my dad, inquiring the price of one variety more than a couple of times, smirking, looking at him and then quickly pointing to some other variety in few minutes,repeating the process with all the seafood infornt of him. After good fifteen minutes or so of this (almost) wordless conversation, just looking at each other, soft smiles and the owner came out with his best offer. In less than ten minutes, we were headed back home, walking hand in hand, thinking about fish meals later in the day.
This is usually a way of life in India. Bargaining. Close association with store owners and vendors, knowing a little more than usual about them, discussing with them, arguing with them, saying the hardest, listening the heartiest, it is often enjoyable and seldom effortless. After living in States for all these years, everytime I go to India, I vouch to put forward my best foot when out strolling and shopping in the bazaars, much to the disappointment of mumwho thinks I have kind of lost my skills.
Eating fresh water fish is another agenda when visiting. Mom’s fish curry with in season rohu(carp) or fried fish with surmai. This spice rubbed pomfret is another favorite and so is this mustard laced light fish curry. You could get an idea from all these recipesthat I have already shared here about how serious my love is for all seafood.
I am really lazy when it comes to cooking just for myself. If it’s not buttered toast or scrambled eggs for lunch,this quick, pan fried fish is what you will find me pampering myself with for the past couple of months. It is pretty simple and fast to put together and differs completely from another pan fried fish I have posted earlier. This recipe relies on warm flavor of ginger, sharp garlic and the grassy heat of green chillies along with a tang from vinegar & chaat masala to give the required acidity as well added notes of heat. I pan fry the fish in virgin mustard oil, you need to try fish cooked in it to know how awesome it tastes but olive oil will work fine too. Also, broccoli or zucchini is my preferred side with seafood, however you can serve some rice pilaf or lentils too.
1 lb fish, cleaned( I use Tilapia, I asked my butcher to cut in into 4 thick pieces. Or use ready to use thick fish fillets)
scant pinch turmeric powder
3 garlic cloves, roughy chopped
2 inch fresh ginger shoot, roughly chopped
1-2 Thai green chillies (adjust to tolerance)
1.5 tablespoon oil (grapeseed or canola)
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard (or use bottled kasundi sauce)
1/4 tsp roasted cumin powder
1/2 tablespoon chaat masala (homemade or store bought)
1 teaspoon garam masala
1.5 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes (adjust to taste)
1.5 or 2 tablespoon rice flour (or as needed)
salt to taste
Mustard Oil ( or grapeseed/canola oil)to cook
chopped cilantro, lime wedges to serve
If you do have chaat masala, add 3/4 tablespoon fresh lime juice and 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika to the marinade.
Pat the fish completely dry using paper towel or kitchen towels.Sprinkle with turmeric and set aside.
Meanwhile, using your mortar and pestle, smash the garlic, ginger and green chillies to a coarse paste.
In a medium bowl, add this paste along with all of the ingredients listed except the rice flour to form a marinade.Rub the fish with this marinade. Let sit refrigerated for atleast 30 minutes or not more than 1 hour.
When ready to cook, set the fish out of the refrigerator.
In a heavy bottomed, wide pan (I use my cast iron) , heat up 1-2 tablespoon of oil on medium. Mix the rice flour 1/2 tablespoon at a time with the fish. The liquid in the marinade and from the fish should be enough to moisten the rice flour. We are not looking for any batter or flour dredging here. The flour will scantly stick on the fish here and there. If you feel that you have added too much flour, use 1-2 tablespoon of water. If you feel that the marinade is still runny (this will depend on the variety and water content of the fish), add more rice flour.
Pan fry the fish on medium low heat in a single layer, flipping midway to brown on both sides. It took me about 3 minutes per sides. (If your fish cut is thicker, it will be more time to cook and vice versa).
Sprinkle with some chaat masala and red chili flakes as soon as the fish is cooked, if you would like (depending on how tangy or hot you like)
Sprinkle chopped cilantro on top. Serve immediately with lime wedges, steamed broccoli or choice of steamed vegetables, rice pilaf or lentils.
Along with garam masala or the hot indian spice blend which got more popular in the west, I find chaat masala equally versatile and quite frequently used in my kitchen. ‘Chaat‘ translates to any snack or food item served on the streets in the northern parts of India and ‘Masala‘ in Hindi refers to any sort of (dry or wet) spice blend. If you happen to hit streets in India for food, mostly everything that you will order will come to your table speckled with generous pinches of chaat masala, of course making it lip smacking good and adding a myriad array of tart, salty and hot flavors all at once.It is essentially the spice blend which you will spot on top of pakoras(fritters), tandoori chicken, kebab platters, murgh tikka, chaat items (of course), mixed in with raita (yogurt dip) and sometimes sprinkled over side salads and onions in indian restaurants here.The one which punches all the senses in the first bite and with a tempting flavor profile of tang and heat.
I would essentially compare chaat masala to the movie theatre popcorn seasoning (oh I love those) which come in all sorts of flavors and add the much-needed zip to your treat.The only difference that can be pointed here is that even though the spice blends differ from brand to brand and home to home and cook to cook but all are referred to as just ‘chaat masala‘. If you are buying from the stores, pick up a couple of brands, try, choose your favorite and stick to it. I am using the same brand for more than a decade and its worth all your money. While you will sniff and taste warm and (slightly) bitter notes in garam masala, chaat masala is sour and peppery with a pronounced heat level. It is a strong blend, one with a kick, in aroma as well to taste.
After I came to the States, like many immigrants starting their life, building bit by bit, accepting the smoothness of life here (trust me it didn’t come easy),I recollect how in those days, we did not own a car and trip to indian grocers was a hardly a once or twice a month activity.Even after making ten lists, I would forget a lot of pantry staples. It was during that time that I delved into making my own spice blends.I found this recipe last month scribbled at the back of an old notebook while I was spring cleaning the garage of old boxes from moving and with an afternoon to kill ahead of me, I blended up some chaat masala. For those of you who happen to live in a place where indian grocer are quite far away to drive to or simply just to try your hand at homemade blends,this recipe could be a starting point. Play with it. Measure, grind, sniff and taste. Add or take items as per your liking. Let the flavor and aroma of spice that you like shine.
For all practical reasons, almost always,I go and pick up a pouch from the grocer shelf for the heck of convenience but it is less in comparison to homemade.Trust me on that. Make some and sprinkle on anything and everything you want. It goes very well on top of cut up raw vegetables like cucumbers, celery, radishes or baby carrots. Add it to marinades (just be cautious of heat) and salad dressings. Use it on grilled meats or seafood. My favorite way is to dredge a lime wedge in it and slowly savor it, try it, its addictive!
7-8 whole dried red kashmiri chillies (remove stems, adjust to taste)
scant 1/2 teaspoon ajwain (carrom) seeds
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 small green cardamom, whole
1 small clove
1 inch cinnamon stick
3 tablespoons amchoor (dry mango powder)
scant 1/4 teaspoon citric acid powder
1.5 teaspoon kashmiri chilli powder (or paprika)
1 tsp extra hot red chilli powder
1teaspoon kala namak(black salt, available in indian stores)
3-4 dried mint leaves
2 tablespoon salt (or to taste)
In a dry skillet, lightly dry roast coriander seeds, cumin seeds, whole chillies, ajwain, peppercorns, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon stick, each spice one at a time, separately, on low heat. Do not let the spices turn brown. Let cool completely.
Put the roasted spices along with other items into dry coffee grinder or spice grinder and blitz to a fine powder.
Store in air tight container at room temperature for up to 6 months.
This recipe is my take on the popular indian dessert called ‘rabdi falooda‘, which is basically vermicelli (falooda) soaking in sweet thickened milk(rabdi) and consisting of a burst of texture in every bite, studded with chopped nuts & soaked basil seeds and is usually topped with a big scoop of ice-cream.
To me this dessert brings with itself the memory of my college days. When we set out in the wee hours of the morning for a tour of the city. Shopping in our minds and skipping breakfast so that we could start as early as possible, hopping on to three or four buses (the Delhi metro was not operational back then) and changing routes as per bus schedules that day, we measured length and breath of the city to reach our favorite area in the south of Delhi. If you reached the place by 11 in the morning, the day presented myriad way to shop, eat and relax.Not only you could choose and bargain with the vendors for chunks of bohemian jewelry but reaching early would also mean that the time spent in queue at the eating joints would be less. What I would have on my mind since morning were the silky smooth milk shakes and dense rabri falooda in the tallest tumblers available. After a tiring day, I inhaled the chilled rabri falooda like a portion of ambrosia – full of textural bites and smelling of rose and cardamom.
The weather in my part of the world has already touched 80 F and we could not have asked for a better dessert for Holi (indian color festival) last week. This dessert, or if you want, call it a thick sweet cold beverage is served with a straw as well as a spoon.It is an immensely popular as a street food in Delhi but maybe not so much in the rest of India(I could be wrong!) since it was the husband’s first time sampling it.
There are many flavors and combinations that can be done- strawberry, orange, vanilla or butterscotch but my favorite has always been the rose. Prepare the ingredients before you start layering. Add as much or as little of whatever you want. You can use any flavor of jelly or icecream. The loaded the better!So exotic and extremely cooling on a warm day. It is something you are bound to like. I made it last week and served along with homemade rose jelly thrown in. It was well received and all I could say is that I wish I could have made a little more.
Prepare the ingredients before you start layering. Add as much or as little of whatever you want. The loaded the better!
Ingredients (Makes 2-3 servings)
1 package faloodasev ( 2 oz, or use colored or plain vermicelli)
Rabdi, as much as you like(recipe below)
Whipped Cream, as much as you like (recipe below)
Ice cream, as many scoops you like
Rose Jelly, as much as you like (recipe below)
Rose Syrup, as much as you like
Chopped pistachios or almonds, as much as you like
Chopped fruits, any kind, as much as you like
Soaked holy basil/tukamaria/sabja seeds, as much as you like
For the Rabdi
2 cups whole milk
2-4 tablespoon sugar (adjust quantity depending on how sweet you desire)
1/2 tsp green cardamom powder
For the Rose Jelly
3 tablespoon water, room temperature
1.5 tablespoon unflavored powdered gelatin
4 tablespoon rose syrup (easily available in indian/pakistani/middle eastern stores, I use this )
3/4 cup hot water
2 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
For the Whipped Cream
1/2 cup cold whipping cream
1.5 tablespoon powdered sugar
pinch green cardamom powder (optional)
Use a dollop your favorite ice cream on top.
You can add chia, sunflower seeds for extra crunch.
If you do not get rose syrup, use strawberry syrup at the bottom layer and for making jelly.
Making Rabdi (This can be done 1-2 days in advance)
Pour whole milk into a heavy, deep bottom pot (preferably non stick) and put on stove on medium low heat. Let the milk cook till it is reduced to half the quantity.You will need to stir every few minutes or so, make sure that it does not stick to the bottom of the pot. You can scrape the sides as you stir(this kurchan or lacey thick milk is important to the the texture of rabdi). The milk will thicken and change color to pale. After about 30-40 minutes, you will see that the milk liquid has evaporated and thick solids remain. is thickened. Take off the stove.
Let cool down slightly (about 5-8 minutes). Th milk will be almost custard like. Add sugar & cardamom powder and mix well. Let sit to cool down completely.
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or till ready to use.
Making the Rose Jelly (This can be done 1-2 days in advance)
In a small bowl, add 3 tablespoon water and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let bloom.
Meanwhile, in a small jug/tumbler, mix together hot water, rose syrup, sugar and lime juice. Stir so that sugar has dissolved. Add the bloomed gelatin to it.
Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes to cool down.
Pour into a small square glass dish and refrigerate for at least 5 hours. Once chilled and set, unmold (by running a sharp knife along the edges and tapping the bottom of inverted dish) and using a sharp knife cut into squares.
Refrigerate until ready to use.
Making the Whipped Cream (This can be done 1 day in advance)
In a cold bowl, using a whisk or hand mixer, whip up the cream to soft peaks. Add powdered sugar 1/2 tablespoon at a time and whip to incorporate.
Refrigerate until ready to use.
Making Rabdi Falooda
Cook the falooda sev or vermicelli as per package instruction.Let cool completely. Toss the noodles with rose water.Chill for at least 30 minutes.
Keep all the components ready to go.
Layer however you like. I never make tow falooda same! Start with 1 tablespoon rose syrup at the bottom of a tall glass. Add the chilled faloooda(or vermicelli). Add 2-3 tablespoon of cold rabdi. Top with 1 tablespoon chopped nuts, add ice cream scoops and 1-2 cubes of rose jelly.
Repeat 2-3 times to make a layered dessert. Top with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream. Scatted nuts or tutti frutti.
Long railway journeys.Picnics.Lunch.Festivals.Breakfast.Street Side Eating.Snacks.Dinner. Name the occasion and ‘poori‘, this deep-fried,unleavened bread has been my companion. Thin, thick, staining fingers with oil, flavored with ajwain(carrom seeds)or not,crispy, soft – this little puffy bread has been a steady thing in our kitchen, bringing us comfort and gluttony(sigh!).I could trade saturday pancakes for these, for they will bring the same deliciousness to the table.
Poke your finger to puncture that crispy skin on top, bloated from the heat of deep-frying and chew on it. Combine it with a spicy potato slurry or jhol and you have an overdose of carbohydrates,but, trust me you could feel bad before eating these or after, but, never ever while eating jhol-poori.It is not a that healthy,’superfood’ thing, but most good things in life bring a fraction (or more) of guilt with them! Or so I think.
Chopped or pureed vegetables like spinach and methi (fenugreek) leaves are many times added to the dough as variations. You could add a lot of or less powdered spices as per your liking. You could even mix up flours – semolina, cornmeal or all-purpose flour to whole wheat flour and fry up. The tastes and texture changes but the dough takes all for there is hardly anything deep-fried which tastes less than lavish. You get what I mean,right?
A hot cup of chai, stale pooris slathered with chutney or pickles rolled into a cigar in hand is how enjoy it the most but traditionally pooris are served with a side – usually a spicy potato based dish(though in many parts they serve with meats and fruit purees too) and essentially achaar(pickle), mango or lime in my grandma’s house.In my family, the side curry is cooked without onion and garlic and I still make it the same .However there are no rules, if my grandma was short on time, she would sometimes slice a few sweet mangoes or so with them. Basically, you get the idea – its is delicious with just about anything.
Jhol Poori is a combination which makes an appearance atleast once a month in our house if not more. In my mums house, this forms Sunday breakfast, every other sunday. While I knead the dough, the pressure cooker hisses and the potatoes boil inside.A quick tempering with simple aromatics-pungent hing(asafoetoda),smoky cumin & turmeric hit the hot ghee followed by tomatoes, green chillies & ginger,awkwardly crumbled potatoes join the pot, simmer for under twenty minutes or so and done. While traditionally jhol is a term used for much thinner, almost water like consistency, we like ours on the thickish gravy side, just go stingy on the amount of water that you add, everything else remains the same.
Aloo Jhol Recipe
Preparation Time :- 30 minutes
Cooking time – About 2 hours (Depends on cut, type & size of the meat)
Ingredients (Serves 3-4)
1 lb stewing mutton/lamb/beef , cubed
2 medium potatoes,peeled & quatered (You can use any potatoes of choice)
2 nos indian bay leaves (tejpatta)
1 ” cinnamon stick
2 medium red onions, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (or cayenne, adjust to taste)
1/2 tsp jaggery (or brown sugar to taste)
1/4 cup mustard oil (substitute with canola/vegetable/sunflower/grapeseed oil )
salt to taste
1.5 cups water
Chopped cilantro for garnish
For the spice paste:-
10-12 whole dry red chillies (I use kashmiri mirch)
1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1/4 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
2 tsp coriander seeds (dhania)
6 whole green cardamom pods (hari elaichi)
4 cloves (laung)
8 black peppercorns (kali mirch)
5 plump garlic cloves
2 ” fresh piece of ginger
Water for soaking the spices (about 1/4 cup)
Whole Kashmiri mirch lends a rich, deep scarlet color to the gravy without the heat & they are easily available in indian stores. You can de-seed the chillies to reduce heat further.The actual heat in the dish comes from the use of red chilli powder & black peppercorns. However, you can also adjust the amount to tolerance.
Soak the chillies, cumin , fennel & coriander seeds, cardamom pods, cloves & peppercorns in 1/4 cup water for about 15 minutes to soften. Drain & tip into a blender. Reserve the soaking liquid. Grind the soaked spices along with garlic & ginger to a smooth paste. Use the soaking liquid if required while grinding.
Marinate the cubed mutton in half of the spice paste for 15 minutes. While the mutton is marinating, heat up the oil in a heavy bottomed pot with lid on high heat till you see ripples on the surface. At this point reduce the heat to medium & wait for 2 minutes. Temper the oil with tejpatta & cinnamon stick. Wait for 15 seconds till you smell the aroma. Next, add the chopped onions to the pot & cook on medium heat with stirring till they turn golden brown.About 8-10 minutes.
Next, reduce the heat to low & add the chopped tomatoes along with the spice paste, red chilli powder & cook the mixture for about 8 minutes, stirring continously till you see oil separating on sides of the pot. At this point,again turn the heat to medium & add the marinated mutton & salt. Saute for 10-12 minutes till the mutton pieces are slightly browned. You will see water from mutton separating at this point but that’s okay.
Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low & let the lamb cook in its own juices till about 90% cooked. For the kind of mutton I used, it took approximately 40 minutes to reach that stage. You can use your slow cooker or pressure cooker also for cooking the mutton. I prefer to cook it lid on.
Add the potatoes & jaggery next along with 1.5 cups of water. Check the salt. Cook covered on low for another 20-25 minutes till the mutton is tender & potatoes are soft but not mushy.
Switch off the heat & let the curry sit covered for atleast 20 minutes or till ready to serve. Garnish with chopped cilantro & serve warm with salad,plain or jeera rice.
Poori (Deep Fried Puffed Bread)
Ingredients (Makes 12-14 pooris)
1.5 cups atta (durum wheat flour)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ajwain (carom seeds,optional)
1/2 cup – 3/4 cup water
1/4 cup canola oil (required while rolling the dough)
Oil for deep-frying
In a ‘paraat’ or wide dish, mix flour, salt and ajwain. Adding little water at a time, knead until smooth, 1–2 minutes to make a stiff dough. You can refer to step – step method on kneading rotidough in my previous post.The dough for poori has to be more firm so add lesser quantity of water.
Once kneaded, there is no need to rest the dough.Divide into equal portions.Roll each portion between palms to make balls(about the size of a lime).
Pour 1/4 cup canola oil in a small bowl. Set about 2 inches of canola oil for deep frying to heat up in a kadhai or a wide skillet.
Start with 1 ball at a time, dip the ball in bowl of oil, flatten it lightly on the rolling board and with the help of a rolling-pin, roll into a 3″ or 4″ circle, about 1/8 thick.When you are rolling, you could slather some oil if dough sticks. It takes practice to get the shape. Even if you don’t get perfect rounds its okay, doesn’t affect the taste. When you are rolling the dough you can lift it and move it around to get a round of uniform thickness.
To check the temperature of the oil, pinch a small portion of dough and add it to the oil, it should quickly rise to the top without changing color. If the dough rises slowly or remains at the bottom,wait for the oil to heat up.
Once the oil is hot, fry rolled up rolled dough one at a time, flipping once, lightly pressing with a slotted spoon (else it will not puff up), until puffed and golden brown, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer the fried poori to paper towels to drain. Serve hot.
If there has to be a dish that I overindulged on during college days, it has to be Manchurian – chicken, cauliflower, vegetable, dry, gravy, sweet,spicy, salty, you name it and I would raise both my hands. With that extra cash at the end of the month, saved from pocket-money each week, I, along with few other girls could be found in all sorts of street side places in and around the college or hopping onto public transport to far away Dilli Haat.There would be plates of greasy noodles, lightly crispy vegetarian(or not) deep fried dumplings coated in spicy manchurian sauce, gossip, laughter, half-finished assignments and a compulsory side of fruit beer for late lunches.
Having said that, indeed my appreciation for this ever so popular indo chinese dish stems from those days. Mum hardly made it, for cooking indo chinese at home is slightly redundant when you are living in India because (almost) always you will end up comparing it with that fantastic taste from the sloppy joints at street side. So while the hotspots around the city are to be held responsible for my insatiable appetite towards indo chinese, I never made it at home, it was only after I moved to States some five years back that I tried recreating it at home. Take chicken in hot garlic sauce or fried rice, talk gobhi manchurian or spicy schezwan noodles,by the end of the first couple of months here, I started getting there, developing recipes with the memories of how they should taste in my head and trying to replicate that inside the super hot wok. The fact that the husband shares my love for indo chinese fare and we kind of got tired of consuming overly sweet chili chickens & hakka noodles tossed with snap peas & broccoli (yikes!) and accepting the fact that the restaurants here just do not get it(or we like to think so),it was exciting to see those similar tastes turning on our meal tables from our own kitchen.
When you make indo chinese, besides ingredients, bring along a lot of patience to the cutting board. Spend the late afternoon mincing garlic and chopping ginger.Shred those carrots and cabbage finer than you think you would need, sniff and taste that mix of soy sauce with coriander & turmeric and shy away from de seeding those hot chillies, coz boy is this one spicy cuisine or what?This vegetable machurian recipe has stayed in my kitchen for few years now. I often make it on non-meat eating days or when I have a stash of miscellaneous vegetables that need to be used up right away. I would not say that deep-frying them is the best option but then you are not eating fried chicken so its kind of okay.You know what I mean, right?After all, its veggies!
Vegetable Manchurian is a widely popular dish of the indo chinese genre. It is nothing by vegetable dumplings in a ‘Manchurian’ sauce. Do not confuse the origins of ‘Manchurian’ sauce – it definitely has nothing to do with that region in South East Asia. Creatively put together by chinese who lived in eastern parts of india for centuries, just imagine it to be an amber-colored, tangy and mildly sweet but hot sauce with hints of indian spices. Indo chinese is what it is due to typical indian condiments – I make it a point to use the brands from indian store for the authentic taste. However, you can confidently do few a substitutions (see notes ) and use your pantry to try this recipe.
1 tsp red chilli powder (or cayenne, adjust to tolerance)
3/4 cup to 1 cup stock (vegetable or chicken, don’t use water)
1 tbsp white vinegar (or to taste)
For Garnish – chopped scallions(green parts), ginger, chopped green chillies
For the Deep fried Vegetable Balls
1 cup finely chopped cabbage
1/2 cup very finely chopped cauliflower
1/2 cup grated carrot
2 tbsp finely chopped scallions
1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped green beans
1 small green chilli, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
scant 1/2 tsp Salt
4 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
Oil for deep frying
Making the Manchurian Sauce
In a small bowl, whisk together soya sauce, tomato-chilli sauce & honey. Set aside. In another bowl, mix cornstarch & water and let stand.
In a wok/pan , heat up the oils to smoking hot. Add chopped garlic, green chillies & ginger and cook for 1 minute or till you smell the aroma. Next add the chopped scallions (white part) & red onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or till light brown in color. Add the coriander & black pepper powder next, stir for 10 seconds and then add the soya sauce mix made earlier.Stir for a minute or so and then add the stock. Simmer for 2-3 minutes on medium-high heat or till you see bubbles on the sides.Add the cornstarch mix to the wok. Reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer for another 2-4 minutes till the sauce starts to thicken.
Next, taste & adjust the salt in the sauce. Add the vinegar to the wok and stir everything well.Remove from heat and add the fried vegetable balls to the pan. Dont stir too much with spoon at this point.
Garnish with chopped green scallions & serve immediately.
Making the Vegetable Balls
In a large bowl, mix together all the chopped vegetables. Add salt, mix(do not squeeze) and let sit for (not more than) 10 minutes. Add the all-purpose flour and corn starch next and gently mix together. If you feel that the mixture is on a dry side add a tablespoon or so of water (ideally you will not be needing it since the vegetables leave water from sitting in salt).
Heat up 2-3 inches of oil in a frying pan on medium high. Shape into small lime size balls and add to the frying pan, Make sure that the oil is not too hot(else the balls will remain raw from inside) or too low (else they will scatter in oil). Fry, turning on all sides to golden dark brown
Drain the fried vegetable balls on a paper towel before adding to sauce (recipe above).
Serve immediately with noodles or fried rice.
Use any vegetables that you like (just do not use potato)coz trust me after frying they will anyhow taste good.
You might be tempted (like me) to use food processor to chop the vegetables but trust me it makes them watery. I recommend chopping them with knife.
Substitute dark soya sauce with tamari (for vegan)
Adding tomato – chilli sauce adds extra heat. I get this sauce from indian stores. You can use just plain tomato ketchup or add mix of sriracha & tomato ketchup for a sweet, spicy tangy flavor to the sauce.
The sauce can be made 2-3 hours in advance. Just fry up the vegetable balls and serve when you want to.
If you forsee leftovers, store the sauce and vegetable balls separately. Toss them together just when you want to serve.
My dad loved to entertain and this would mean as the weekend was approaching,mom would be spending most of her time brainstorming dinner menus. End of the week and the house would be choked with family and friends and even after doing it for several years,I loved the excitement in her gait on saturday mornings when we strolled to the bazaar to get groceries.There would be guests with both vegetarian and non vegetarian choices, not many with special diets but definitely all,secretly,looking forward to her deftly spiced dishes. Many from the near family would sometimes call ahead in the day with requests over the phone while others just warmed their hearts thinking of the surprise that she would bring to the table.Each time, she came up with such a fantastic menu, the array of dishes perfectly complementing each other, each course well thought, most of the food homemade and few not.
She did not choose to make elaborate,time-consuming dishes if the number of guests were many but quite a variety so that everyone could spoon a favorite on their plate. All afternoon, the house smelled of few dozen or so of mutton koftassimmering inside the aluminum pot specifically reserved for cooking on such days of big meals, a show stopper as my dad would say, it was the main dish along side puffy rotis, then, there would be dishes made with paneer ,a must on north indian entertaining menus,a slow cooked side of potatoes, another crowd pleaser, her cinnamon spiced red hued dum aloo and the signature rice pilaf, brought together with ghee criped cumin seeds folded in fragrant basmati,thick, nuttydal tarka, tempered with ghee & scattered with cilantro and served with lemon wedges on side of the bowl. On few occasions, she would tend to a pot of boiling kadhiwhich by the way was a favorite of almost every aunt I know in the family,while quickly frying up ajwain scented onion pakoras on the side stove at the last moment so that the fritters remained crispy till the guests sat down to eat.
If it were winters, there would be fried seafood as starters,a winter tradition, a family favorite,when the fish season peaks in the bazaars, without a miss, fried,crispy pieces of rohu (fresh water carp) fish were served along with vinegar soaked onion rings and smoking hot green chutney.If my dad got a good deal, few kilos of white pomfret were slid into smoking mustard oil for guests. Quite in contrast to here, growing up, we consumed copious amounts of seafood during the colder months and that’s the reason I crave it every now and then. Every region in India has its own fish fry recipe, in the coastal areas of south india,fresh caught smaller fish are doused in a paste of ground coconut and red chillies before deep-frying while in the eastern parts, in a lightly brit inspired ‘fish & chips’, they fry the marinated fish after a coating of egg and bread crumbs.
However, mum uses a batter which she tells is my maternal grandfather’s recipe.The marinated fish is coated in a garlic-ginger laced,turmeric hued marinade and then scantly coated in a mix of rice and besan (chickpea) flours.She fondly recollects that during her childhood, my grandfather used to soak the rice a night before and stone grind it the following day to coat the thick,belly pieces of rohu in it and they would sit around the stove waiting in turn to get the piping hot fritter. If you happen to visit my home, mum makes fried fish the same way, she would soak the rice and hand grind it on sil-batta(stone grinder). I have adapted the recipe and use ready-made rice flour to make it quick and equally delicious.
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
1 lb fish (I used 4 large tilapia belly pieces cut into half or equivalent weight any small whole fish like pompano or pomfret)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1.5 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp fresh minced ginger
3/4 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to tolerance)
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp mustard oil
generous pinch of salt
3 tbsp rice flour
1/4 besan (chickpea flour)
1 tsp chaat masala
salt to taste (to taste)
Mustard Oil for frying (substitute with any high smoky point oil)
1/2 tsp methi dana (fenugreek seeds)
Clean and descale the fish pieces or ask your butcher to do it. Wash under a stream of water and pat them dry with a paper towel. In a flat dish, layer the pieces and add all the ingredients listed under marination. Rub everything with your hands to coat the fish and refrigerate for 1 hour.
15 minutes before ready to fry, take out the fish from the refrigerator and let sit on the kitchen counter. In a bowl, combine the rice flour, besan and chaat masala. Taste a pinch of this mixture before adding additional salt since chaat masala is quite salty, then adjust the salt to taste.
Set 2 inches of mustard oil (or whichever oil your are using) in a heavy bottomed, wide pot or skillet (I use my 10″ cast iron) to heat up on medium flame.While the oil is heating, add the flour mixture to the marinated fish pieces.Mix with hands such that the flour sticks to the fish.Add a light splash of water if needed. We do not want a wet batter. We do not want a thick flour batter to coat the fish, instead just a uneven coating of flour on the fish (similar to coating chicken when deep frying).
Once the oil is hot, about 325 F, add fenugreek seeds to it.Let the seeds crackle.Gently set the coated fish pieces the into hot oil and fry for 3-4 minutes on each side until medium golden brown in color. (this time will be more in case you are using whole fish). Do not fry on very high or very low heat else the fish will get soggy or remain raw inside.
Drain on paper towel and when the fish is still hot, sprinkle more chaat masala. Discard the oil.
Serve immediately with onion slices and lemon wedges and green chutney or any sauce of choice.
You could use whole small fish (like pomfret,golden pompano,trout, mackerel) or freshwater fish like rohu, katla (indian varieties) or boneless fish fillets ( cat fish, tilapia, cod, mahi-mahi) in this recipe. When using a whole fish, make incisions before you marinate.
Chaat Masala is a hot & tangy blend of spices which is easily available in indian/pakistani stores. If you do not have it, skip and add a little cayenne and crushed black pepper to the flour mix. You could squirt lemon juice for tang once you have finished frying the fish.
Many times, I use the same recipe to fry up fillets and stuff them inside tortillas or roti with coleslaw and serve as fish tacos.